Moskva slezam ne verit (1980)

MOSCOW DOESN”T BELIEVE IN TEARS (Moskva slezam ne verit)

(director: Vladimir Menshov; screenwriter: Valentin Chernykh; cinematographer: Igor Slabnevich; editor: Yelena Mikhajlova; music: Sergei Nikitin; cast: Vera Alentova (Katya), Irina Muravyova (Lyudmila), Raisa Ryazanova (Antonina), Aleksandr Fatyushin (Gurin), Aleksey Batalov (Gosha), Boris Smorchkov (Nikolai), Yevgeniya Khanayeva (Rachkov’s Mother); Runtime: 145; MPAA Rating: NR; Kino Video; 1979-USSR-dubbed in English)
“Almost unbearable, overlong and empty melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1980. It’s an escapist romantic comedy, in the same vein as a Hollywood film like When Harry Met Sally (which is not meant as a recommendation). Vladimir Menshov directs this almost unbearable, overlong and empty melodrama with an unconvincing tongue-in-cheek innocence. Some might like it as a slice of life flick depicting the ordinary Muscovite living under Communism.

It’s set in 1958 in Moscow and follows the romantic travails of three young factory girls coming from the country to live in Moscow in a women’s residence — the upwardly mobile, on the hunt for a rich guy, Lyudmila (Irina Muravyova), the securely rooted Earth Mother type Antonina (Raisa Ryazanova) and the proud wannabe university student Katya (Vera Alentova).

Katerina is asked by a relative to house-sit a skyscraper apartment while they go on vacation. Lyudmila can’t resist being her roommate and throws a dinner party for a group of eligible men, pretending that they are daughters of a professor and that the luxury apartment is theirs. Among the guests are a poet, an industrialist, a science student, a hockey player, and a television cameraman. Factory worker Katerina falls for the cameraman, Rachkov (Yuri Vasilyev); Lyudmila, a bakery worker who passes herself off as a psychology student, falls for Gurin (Aleksandr Fatyushin), the famous hockey player. Katerina becomes pregnant but before she has a chance to tell Rachkov that she’s pregnant, he shows up to film a TV show at the factory where Katerina works at a press. Katerina’s lie about being a professor’s daughter is exposed and Rachkov leaves her high and dry even when he later learns of her pregnancy. Rachkov’s arrogant mother (Yevgeniya Khanayeva) visit Katerina and after some nasty comments offers her a small amount of money – which Katya refuses. In the meantime Antonina marries Nikolai (Boris Smorchkov), a simple, sincere peasant boy she’s seeing.

The trio meets 20 years later (1978) and compare life experiences. Antonina and Nikolai are still happily married and now have three sons. Lyudmila had married her hockey player, Gurin, but the once non-drinker had become an alcoholic and the childless couple bitterly divorced seven years ago. Katerina raises a sweet daughter by herself named Alexandra (Natalya Vavilova), and dedicates herself to getting a degree in engineering and rises to the position of plant director. She’s the most successful professionally, but has no such luck romantically. Since she’s the most sympathetic of the three, it comes as a relief that she at last meets her ideal man before there’s closure to this soap opera. The only thing is that Gosha (Aleksey Batalov), a strong-minded tool-and-die maker, is below her in stature. It now becomes a question, if they are to become a couple, of how the blue collar worker handles the touchy situation of the woman in the relationship having the superior position.